As Captain Carbon goes around searching for Cyrano, Cyrano emerges from a tent and greets Carbon. Cyrano looks at the band of hungry cadets. Despite their complaints of hunger, Cyrano tosses them a copy of Homer’s Iliad and tells them to “devour” it.
Cyrano’s Romanticism is clearer now than ever: much like Ragueneau in Act 2, he subscribes to the idea that words are a fitting replacement for food. Indeed, we never see Cyrano eat in this act, furthering the illusion that Cyrano’s spirit and his love for Roxane provide sufficient nourishment for him to survive.
Cyrano seats himself among his cadets. He tells them to take their minds off food by playing music. An old soldier produces a flute and begins to play a pastoral melody. Cyrano murmurs that the music will remind the cadets of the woods, the fields, and the farmlands. The cadets bow their heads as they hear the music, and some cry. Carbon is amazed that Cyrano has accomplished so much with music—Cyrano explains to him that he’s made his cadets homesick, and heartache is better than stomachache.
Cyrano’s response to his soldiers’ hunger is to play music for them—and this music would have had special significance for the 19th century Parisians attending Rostand’s play. While the Gascons were regarded as crude peasants in the 17th century, by the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution, Gascon was regarded as a Romanticized bastion of an idyllic past. It’s important to recognize that Cyrano doesn’t actually “cure” his soldiers’ hunger; he just replaces one kind of hunger with another.
A cadet notices that Count de Guiche is about to arrive at the camp. The other cadets moan and groan—de Guiche is regarded as a snob and a bully. Cyrano tells his men to play cards and dice, so that they don’t seem miserable before de Guiche. He produces a book and begins reading.
Even when his men are dying of starvation, Cyrano remains committed to appearances. He can’t stand to show weakness in front of de Guiche, the man who’s cruelly sent him and Christian into war. Cyrano knows that it’s important to project an image of confidence and stability, so as not to give de Guiche any satisfaction.